December 4, 2020
PS5 and Xbox Series X backward compatibility: Everything we know

PS5 and Xbox Series X backward compatibility: Everything we know


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The PS5, Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S will all play old games, with a few limitations.


Dan Ackerman/CNET

Playing your old games on a next-generation console is a huge deal at launch when there aren’t many new titles to justify the hundreds of dollars you spent on a shiny new machine. Sony and Microsoft know this as they prepare to launch their PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X next week, both having talked up their backward compatibility features.

The two companies have been battling in the console wars for decades — Sony since 1994 and Microsoft since 2001 — so they’ve both built up magnificent back catalogs filled with classics. Let’s take a look at how much of each of those libraries you’ll be able to play on the upcoming consoles and how you’ll be able to transfer your saves.

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Your shiny new PS5 will play most PS4 games.


Dan Ackerman/CNET

PS5

The PS5, which starts at $400 and comes out Nov. 12, was designed with PS4 games in mind, PlayStation boss Jim Ryan told CNET in June.

“PS4 titles get even better on PS5. Select PS4 titles will see increased loading speeds on the PS5 console, and will also leverage Game Boost, offering improved or more stable frame rates,” the company said in an Oct. 9 blog post. “Some titles with unlocked frame rates or dynamic resolution up to 4K may see higher fidelity.”

Read more: PS5 review: Sony built a space-age game console for your next-gen dreams

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The PS4’s Ghost of Tsushima will load more quickly and run 60 frames per second on PS5.


Sucker Punch/Screenshot by Sean Keane/CNET

Ghost of Tsushima developer Sucker Punch gave us a sense of how Game Boost will work. Once it’s enabled, you’ll “see an extra option to allow frame rates up to 60fps.” In the 2018 God of War, selecting the “Favor Performance” video option will let the game run at a similar frame rate.


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The company also released a small list of PS4 games that won’t be playable on the PS5:

  • DWVR
  • Afro Samurai 2 Revenge of Kuma Volume One
  • TT Isle of Man – Ride on the Edge 2
  • Just Deal With It!
  • Shadow Complex Remastered
  • Robinson: The Journey
  • We Sing
  • Hitman Go: Definitive Edition
  • Shadwen
  • Joe’s Diner

It noted that these games will carry a “Playable on: PS4 only” warning in the PlayStation Store, so you don’t download them by accident.

On Oct. 30, Ubisoft released a separate list of PS4 games that won’t work on PS5. The most prominent one was 2015’s Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate. It later pulled that blog post, telling IGN it may have included “inaccuracies involving the Ubisoft titles that will be playable on PS5.” Since the status of those games remains unclear, we won’t include the full list here. 

Read more: GameSpot’s PS5 review: A promising start to the next generation

The switch from spinning hard drive to solid-state storage should make them run faster than they did on the PS4, so you won’t be staring into the loading screen abyss as much as you do now. 

If you subscribe to PS Plus, Sony’s $60-a-year online service, you’ll get a selection of PS4 games to play at no extra cost through the PS5-only Plus Collection on Nov. 12:

First-party games

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Batman: Arkham Knight is part of the PS5’s Plus Collection.


Warner Bros.

Third-party games

  • Batman: Arkham Knight
  • Battlefield 1
  • Call of Duty: Black Ops III — Zombies Chronicles Edition
  • Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy
  • Fallout 4
  • Final Fantasy 15 Royal Edition
  • Monster Hunter: World
  • Mortal Kombat X
  • Persona 5
  • Resident Evil 7 biohazard

You’ll be able to use your current DualShock 4 controller to play those PS4 games, but you’ll have to use the new DualSense for PS5 games. And PS5 won’t be backward compatible with PS3, PS2 or PS1 games.

Transferring saves

It’s possible to continue your PS4 adventures on the new console, and Sony has confirmed a few methods of transferring your saves. 

“You can transfer digital games, game data, and game saves from a PS4 console to a PS5 console using LAN cables, or by connecting wirelessly (Wi-Fi). If you’ve already stored PS4 games and game data in the external USB storage device connected to your PS4, you can bring them over to PS5 with that external USB storage device,” the company said in an Oct. 9 blog post. “And if you are a PS Plus member, you can also sync PS4 game saves on PS5 through cloud storage.”

However, it warned that the ability to transfer game saves between a PS4 version and a PS5 version of the same game is down to the developer, and it’ll vary with cross-gen games. It’s highly unlikely that any developer will decide not to give you the power to transfer. So far, Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales and Sackboy: A Big Adventure are confirmed to have save transfers if you upgrade to the PS5 versions.

PlayStation 3

You might want to hold onto your PS3 to play games from its library.


Sarah Tew/CNET

Revisiting PlayStation’s past?

If you want to play those dusty old original PlayStation, PS2 or PS3 discs, you’re out of luck. Sony moved away from backward compatibility after the initial batch of PS3s, and PS4 couldn’t play any games from the older consoles — so that 2008 copy of Metal Gear Solid 4 will remain on your shelf until the world goes cold.

This will be the case on PS5 as well. PlayStation boss Jim Ryan confirmed to Famitsu on Sept. 17 that the shiny new console won’t play PS3, PS2 or PlayStation games.

“We keep in mind the engineering specialized for the PS5, as we produced the device,” Ryan told the Japanese gaming magazine. “In the midst of that, the PS4 already has 100 million players; we thought they ought to want to play PS4 titles on the PS5 as well indeed, so we included compatibility with the PS4. While implementing that, we also focused our efforts on taking in the high-speed SSD and the new controller DualSense at the same time. So, unfortunately, we couldn’t reach the implementation of such compatibilities.”


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However, there are a few ways to access old games on PS4. There’s a selection of PS2 Classics you can buy on the PlayStation Network, and Sony’s $9.99 a month PS Now streaming service lets you access a massive library of PS2 and PS3 titles (along with a rotating selection of PS4 games — these can be downloaded to your console). It’s likely these games will be playable on the PS5.

Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to access the massive library of original PlayStation, PSP or PS Vita games without tracking down the old hardware or a mini console. Its competitor doesn’t have as long a history, but more of Microsoft’s back catalog will be playable on its next-gen consoles.

Read more: Game subscription services: Read this before you choose one

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The Xbox Series X and Series S will be backward compatible with games from all of Microsoft’s previous consoles, but not all such titles.


Microsoft

Xbox Series X and Series S

Microsoft has been more ambitious with backward compatibility — the $499 Xbox Series X and $299 Series S will play original Xbox, Xbox 360 and Xbox One games when the consoles come out Nov. 10. That’s four generations of games, stretching back to the first console’s 2001 launch.

But it doesn’t include literally everything. Microsoft has a comprehensive list of the games that’ll play on its upcoming consoles: 568 games from the Xbox 360 and only 39 games from the original Xbox library are currently backward compatible. And titles that require its defunct Kinect motion sensor won’t work at all.

Read more: Xbox Series X review and Xbox Series S review

Old games will get a visual boost on the Series X and Series S, by way of high dynamic range graphics.

“After 500K+ hours of testing, we’re are excited to share that all Xbox, Xbox 360 and Xbox One games playable on Xbox One today, except for the handful that require Kinect, will be available — and look and play better — on Xbox Series X|S at launch,” Jason Ronald, Xbox director of program management, tweeted on Oct. 28.

Read more: GameSpot’s Xbox Series X review and Xbox Series S review

The new consoles’ hardware may also reduce game loading times and increase frame rates, and add the Quick Resume feature.

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Your Xbox 360 is largely irrelevant thanks to the Series X’s ability to play old games.


Sarah Tew/CNET

Save transfers

This is incredibly straightforward because Microsoft’s Smart Delivery system lets you transfer save files from any Xbox Series X compatible game.

“As was the case with our current backwards compatible titles, you won’t have to worry about losing any progress either,” the company said in a June 15 blog post. “Thanks to our commitment to compatibility across generations, you can be assured that when you purchase a game on Xbox One today, your game library, progression and entire gaming legacy moves forward with you if you jump into the next generation with Xbox Series X.”


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If you’ve still got saves for 360 games you want to access, you can transfer to Xbox Series X by uploading it to the cloud. You can’t use this method to transfer saves from original Xbox games to the Series X, so you’ll have to start that Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic play-through from scratch.

Maximizing your Xbox library

Microsoft also has a subscription service, the $10 a month Xbox Game Pass, that’ll get you access to a rotating library of older games. New Xbox exclusives also launch on the service, so you’ll get Halo Infinite and other upcoming games the day they become available. The $15 Game Pass Ultimate option will also get you access to Microsoft’s xCloud streaming service from Sept. 15.

Unlike the PS5, you’ll have plenty of controller options no matter what generation of games you’re playing — the Series X and Series S controllers will be compatible with Xbox One games, the Xbox One console itself and PCs. You can also use your Xbox One controllers on your Series X and Series S.





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